The nightmare news of a wrong-way freeway driver's killing the family and girlfriend of a high school basketball player, who witnessed the aftermath of the wreck, was made more shocking by the revelation that the driver not only had a high blood alcohol content, but had previous alcohol-related driving-offense convictions. District Attorney Ira Reiner's decision to charge murder fully reflects our natural outrage, but it doesn't provide the real answer. Even if the driver is convicted and imprisoned, one can foresee him some day leaving prison and beginning his life-threatening drunk driving course again.
What California needs to deal with these menaces is a law that provides that for any second or serious drunk-driving conviction the defendant, no matter what other penalty, shall have his or her driver's license revoked permanently or at least for an extended period. To make sure that the disability is effective, any motor vehicles the defendant owns should be forfeited to the state. Further driving without a license should be made a serious felony, carrying a substantial mandatory state prison sentence.
Given the importance of driving to the livelihood and life style of most Californians, these would be extreme penalties. But they are necessary for the same reason. And I suggest that they would make any but the most degenerate drinking driver think twice before taking the wheel.
LAURENCE F. JAY